When They See Us follows the story of the infamous 1989 Central Park jogger rape case. It follows 5 of the males of color who were wrongly convicted of the crime and later filed a lawsuit against the city of New York for wrongful convictions.
The series explores the themes of racial segregation and a failed justice system which marginalizes its people rather than uniting them. It has also explicitly shown how people of color face a lot of adversities, mainly due to the biased judicial system.
Netflix is a platform widely applauded for its ability to tackle the darker topics in society, and When They See Us is a step for the platform to tackle the racial discrimination and the gaps of morality in the American justice system.
Racism is a day to day problem for people of color. Still, institutionalized racism like in the Central Park jogger case almost immediately destroys the life of a person as they are put behind bars and branded criminals for the rest of their lives.
On 19 April 1989, a white woman, Trisha Meili, was jogging through Central Park on her usual jogging route when she was attacked and brutally raped. She was also beaten to the brink of death; in fact, she went into a coma for 12 days.
There were eight other cases in Central Park, but five boys (teenagers) belonging to ethnic minorities were arrested in relation to the case. A jury split the five into two groups and put them on trial as adults, even though one of them was 16 years old at the time.
All five of them were convicted as adults, and 4 of them received maximum sentences for crimes, including rape and assault. The 16-year old was given a less severe sentence but had to serve all of his sentences in adult facilities.
Matias Reyes confessed to the murders in 2001, and this was backed by DNA evidence.
Later, all five of them filed lawsuits against the city of New York and the state. Mayor Bill de Blasio settled the lawsuit awarding $41 million to the wrongly convicted. They also won $3.9 million from the state. All of the five were also exonerated from all the previous charges.
The five young men convicted of the crime have been portrayed by incredible actors. Kevin Richardson is portrayed by Asante Blackk, Antron McCray by Caleel Harris, Yusef Salaam by Ethan Herisse, Korey Wise by Jharrel Jerome, and Raymond Santana by Marquis Rodriguez, portrayed by Freddy Miyares as an adult.
They have depicted the wrongly convicted men with pain, and their performance has pulled in masses of audiences from all over the world.
When You See Us also shows the difficulties caused in the family of the wrongly convicted men and Marsha Stephanie Blake, Kylie Bunbury, Aunjanue Ellis, John Leguizamo, etc. have gut-wrenchingly portrayed the emotions that a parent would feel if their child is convicted for rape and assault, that too wrongfully.
The cast playing the family also show that they have experienced racial discrimination throughout their life.
When They See Us’ plot revolves around one of the most sensitive issues in America, a misstep in the series would mean disappointing millions of people of color. But the show has wowed audiences and critics alike getting almost perfect ratings on various platforms.
IMDb rated the show 9/10, and it has also gotten a 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. According to a report in June 2016, the show had been viewed more than 23 million Netflix accounts.
It is also one of the most well-received and important shows, according to the intended audience. Netflix’s drama series is a must-watch, especially for ethnic minorities.
The show was always meant to be a miniseries, and there is not talk of a second season unless Netflix surprises everyone.No time.